Los Angeles-based multi-media artist Guillermo Bert was born in Santiago, Chile in 1959. His bi-cultural experience provides him with a lived perspective from which his artistic expression is cultivated. Bert combines his decades-long practice of working with cultural symbols of urbanism, consumerism and displacement – dating back to his 1990s iterations of street-level ‘bricolage’ that delved into the urban archaeology of street posters along Los Angeles’s skid row. From there, he modified his commodities work to incorporate electronic bar codes into laser cuts and paintings, until his first trip home to Chile in 2010. That trip marked a turning point in his work through his experience with the indigenous Mapuche community, inspiring his work with traditional weavers, which he combined with QR codes woven into the textile designs. These “high tech” QR codes, when scanned with a smartphone, take the viewer into a filmic world of story, myth and reflection by Mapuche elders, activists and poets. Extending this idea, Bert continues to experiment with this multi-layered format, collaborating to date with Mapuche, Navajo, Maya, Mixtec and Zapotec weavers. The result is a series of 40 embedded films that “de-code” cultural messaging and create a bond between the distant viewer and the intimacy of the community of indigenous artists and storytellers.
The filmic and multi-media aspects of the project, while intrinsic to the textile project as a whole, also stand alone as visual media testimony and glimpses into cultural life through documentary inquiry and observation. In his video production work of the last five years, Bert has trained the camera on the urgency of the messages relayed and traveled through the art works of indigenous artists. The artists in these films speak for themselves, often in the voices of their indigenous languages. These 40 short films from more than 7 countries of approximately 10 minutes each will, in turn, be woven together to form a “mini-series” as the project continues to unfold and all manner of content and forms along the media spectra – from weavings to laser sculptures to photographs to film.
Bert’s career as an artist and arts educator takes many forms – from Art Director of the Los Angeles Times (1995-2000) to Professor of Mixed Media at the Art Center School of Design, Pasadana, California. Highlights from his exhibition accomplishments and film screenings include more than 30 venues: MoLAA (Museum of Latin American Art); Pasadena Museum of California Art; Museum of Art and Design, New York; with forthcoming projects scheduled in conjunction with L.A./L.A. Pacific Standard Time and the Folk and Craft Museum; the UCR (Riverside) Museum of Art and the Nevada Museum of Art. His work has been reviewed nationally and internationally by the Smithsonian Magazine, El Pais (Spain), the LA Times and the LA Weekly, and supported by the Center for Cultural Innovation The California Community Foundation and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.